It’s not every day that a government declares that they’ll be building a brand-new city. Just the announcement of the Xiongan New Area by Chinese leaders sent thousands of people driving to the future site of the city to buy property, like Wild West homesteaders but in cars instead of covered wagons.
Located about 62 miles outside of Beijing, the Xiongan New Area was designated a “special economic zone” by the Chinese government on Saturday, which promised a 1,000-year investment to the region. As China’s official media agency Xinhua reported, “sustainable growth” was cited by Chinese leaders as the reason behind the new city. “Xiongan will be an answer to China’s growth conundrum: breakneck urban sprawl must give way to a balanced and inclusive development strategy.”
The idea is that by shifting enough economic activity out of Beijing and into this new city, residents will not only have better access to non-industrial jobs, they’ll be able to live closer to services and use more sustainable transportation methods. Despite huge investments in electric cars, public transit and bike share, the sprawling megalopolis of Beijing continues to suffer from crippling smog.
When finished, Xiongan New Area will eventually cover 772 square miles (New York City is just over 300 square miles). The city is only one component of a planned megaregion named Jing-Jin-Ji which will encompass Beijing, the Hebei Province where Xiongan will be located, and the port city of Tianjin. Chinese leaders are creating the megaregion to curb overpopulation in Beijing, spread economic growth into rural areas, and address pollution concerns. Because so many of the areas are home to shuttering manufacturing plants, the plan has been called China’s version of revitalizing its Rust Belt.
As Bloomberg notes, a similar strategy was deployed by the Chinese government when it announced the development of Shenzhen in 1980, which became one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. In addition to people pouring into the region for speculative land purchases, the Xiongan announcement caused a stock market rally, with construction industries quickly raising prices for materials like cement. Stay tuned.